Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom – Enzian Theater

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Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom

Due to graphic content, no one under 18 will be permitted to this film.

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1975 film Salo is the story of a group of Italy’s fascist elite in the waning days of World War II, who kidnap 18 teenage boys and girls and seclude themselves in a palatial mansion to act out a series of increasingly violent scenarios upon their captives and each other. The film, which takes its structure from Dante’s “Inferno,” was damned by its critics upon release as one of the most vicious collections of horrifying images ever committed to celluloid. And even today, 45 years after the film was shot, it remains an impressively disconcerting masterpiece of degradation and cruelty.

An adaptation of the novel “The 120 Days of Sodom” by Libertine author the Marquis de Sade, Salo represents a marked departure from the “Trilogy of Life” films that had thrust Pasolini broadly into the international spotlight. Salo was the directors 12th feature film in just 14 years, but it was hardly the first to bring notice to his portrayal of frank and explicit sexuality. Past productions like The Decameron paved the way for the maestro to sink his teeth into the hell that is de Sade’s novel.   

The film transports de Sade’s 18th century novel from France to Italy, and takes its nom de plume from the Northern Italian town where Benito Mussolini presided over the last days of his failed Socialist Republic–declaring with no uncertain terms Pasolini’s intent to make a film that addressed the egregious corruption of Italian politics, and the atrocities committed under Mussolini’s reign while the country sat by idly and did little to nothing to stop it.

Just 20 days before the film’s World Premiere at the Paris Film Festival, Pasolini was found dead—having been murdered—allegedly by a male prostitute. Without the filmmaker alive to justify the films atrocities, the furor that followed the premiere would rock the international film community even more than the scandalous death of its creator, leading to production bans and wild theories about purpose and content which resulted in the film spending the better part of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s barred from cinemas in Europe and North America.

Italy | France, 1975, 117 minutes, Not Rated, In Italian, French, and German with English subtitles, Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini

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